Wednesday, March 31, 2010
We would like to welcome two new Contributing Editors for the Law School Academic Support Blog: Paul Bateman and Lisa Young. As Contributing Editors, they will be posting at least once a month to share their insights with our readers. Several additional Contributing Editors will be joining us over the coming months.
Paul Bateman is Director of Academic Support and Associate Professor of Legal Analysis, Writing and Skills at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, California. A picture and biography can be found at Paul Bateman Profile. Paul has served on the AALS Executive Committee for the Academic Support Section as well as Chair for the Section. He has also been active as a speaker and committee member for LSAC. In addition to his expertise in academic support and legal analysis, writing and skills, Paul is involved in integrating academic support concepts and skills into the doctrinal classroom. You can view the web pages for Paul's ASP program at Academic Support Program at Southwestern.
Lisa Young is the Director of the Bar Exam Skills Lab at Seattle University School of Law in Seattle, Washington. A picture and biography can be found at Lisa Young Profile. She has been working with students for nine years on bar preparation matters for both the Washington and Oregon bar examinations. You can view the web page for Lisa's bar studies program at Bar Exam Program at Seattle U.
We are delighted to have Paul and Lisa join the editorial staff for the Blog. All of us will look forward to and benefit from their future postings. Welcome!
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
I am in the middle of the book Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin; I think it's an excellent book for ASPer's, students, and other law professors. I will probably using this book as part of my class for freshman in college next fall. If I could require it for incoming law students or an ASP course, I would.
Amy and I write extensively in this blog and give presentations on the things lower-ranked and at-risk students do and don't do compared to their more academically successful peers. Much of what we find academically successful students do is researched and discussed in the book. Experts have better memories than novices in their field of expertise. Memory is a learned skill. The research on memory is particularly fascinating because it implies that memory is built on understanding the task and giving it context; we tell law students it's about understanding, not memorizing, and struggling students frequently disagree with us. However, the research is saying we are both correct. If law students don't understand, they can't memorize the essential, foundational concepts that in turn build deeper understanding necessary for success on exams. All struggling students are seeing is that their classmates who understand the material have foundational concepts committed to memory, and they blame their struggles on memory, not a lack of understanding. Understanding builds context, which aids in memory. Law school is a spiral curriculum, where concepts build and interact with each other, and if students can't get their foot on the first step, they can never climb higher.
Deliberate practice, distinguished from hard work, is another key idea I think law students need to understand. We in ASP always hear from struggling students that they are working as hard as they can, and we find that their hard work is not the type that produces learning. Helping students see that number of study hours alone does not help them understand the material is one of our first hurdles as ASPer's. The next step, learning what type of study produces understanding of the material, is known as deliberate practice. Where I find this book to be helpful is that it shows law students it's not just law school; they type of practice they need is relevant to any field where they want to succeed. I think it takes some of the vitriol out of their law school experience. (RCF)
Monday, March 29, 2010
A little outside of ASP, but might be interesting to someone looking to branch out...
Dean Assistant/Law SM529805 University of Kentucky College of Law This position will be the primary administrator for the College of Law for internal and non-educational operations. S/he will work with the Budget Officer on budget oversight and will be responsible for Grants Management/Reporting to the Sponsors S/he will be responsible for Strategic Plan implementation and updates. The person in this position will be responsible for supervision of the Director of Communications, the Director of IT, and the Director of Continuing Legal Education, and the Alumni Affairs Coordinator. S/he will be responsible for the coordination and completion of the annual ABA Questionnaire and will be responsible for gathering all requests and responses for data to provide to central admin/other Universities as needed. This position will be responsible for the implementation and oversight of Community outreach and engagement efforts of the College of Law and for the oversight of all Public Relations, Media releases, and communication/ announcements for the College. S/he will be responsible for coordinating and overseeing all aspects of capital construction and repairs made to the current Law Building. This includes coordinating projects around class schedules and hosted events; monitoring the amount of disruption to the daily business of the College and ensuring projects are proceeding on schedule. This position will be responsible for the day-to-day operation and security of the building. Minimum Requirements are Juris Doctorate and two years of related experience or the equivalent. JD and 2 yrs administration and community engagement experience, strong interpersonal skills and good judgment, financial/fiscal knowledge, ability to communicate effectively, and the ability to work with a variety of constituencies are preferred. Founded in 1865 as a land-grant institution adjacent to downtown Lexington, UK is nestled in the scenic heart of the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. Recently ranked as one of the safest, most creative, and the brainiest cities in the nation, Lexington is an ideal location to experience the work-life balance that the University strives to provide to its employees. See for yourself what makes UK one great place to work. To apply for job # SM529805, a UK Employment Application must be submitted at www.uky.edu/ukjobs. If you have any questions, contact HR/Employment, phone (859) 257-9555 press 2 or email [email protected]. Application deadline is April 18, 2010, but may be extended as needed. The University of Kentucky is a Tobacco & Drug Free campus. Any candidate offered this position may be required to pass pre-employment screenings as mandated by University of Kentucky Human Resources. These screenings may include a national background check and/or drug screen. The University of Kentucky is an equal opportunity employer and encourages applications from minorities and women.
Dean Assistant/Law SM529805
University of Kentucky College of Law
This position will be the primary administrator for the College of Law for internal and non-educational operations. S/he will work with the Budget Officer on budget oversight and will be responsible for Grants Management/Reporting to the Sponsors S/he will be responsible for Strategic Plan implementation and updates. The person in this position will be responsible for supervision of the Director of Communications, the Director of IT, and the Director of Continuing Legal Education, and the Alumni Affairs Coordinator. S/he will be responsible for the coordination and completion of the annual ABA Questionnaire and will be responsible for gathering all requests and responses for data to provide to central admin/other Universities as needed. This position will be responsible for the implementation and oversight of Community outreach and engagement efforts of the College of Law and for the oversight of all Public Relations, Media releases, and communication/ announcements for the College. S/he will be responsible for coordinating and overseeing all aspects of capital construction and repairs made to the current Law Building. This includes coordinating projects around class schedules and hosted events; monitoring the amount of disruption to the daily business of the College and ensuring projects are proceeding on schedule. This position will be responsible for the day-to-day operation and security of the building.
Minimum Requirements are Juris Doctorate and two years of related experience or the equivalent. JD and 2 yrs administration and community engagement experience, strong interpersonal skills and good judgment, financial/fiscal knowledge, ability to communicate effectively, and the ability to work with a variety of constituencies are preferred.
Founded in 1865 as a land-grant institution adjacent to downtown Lexington, UK is nestled in the scenic heart of the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. Recently ranked as one of the safest, most creative, and the brainiest cities in the nation, Lexington is an ideal location to experience the work-life balance that the University strives to provide to its employees. See for yourself what makes UK one great place to work.
To apply for job # SM529805, a UK Employment Application must be submitted at www.uky.edu/ukjobs. If you have any questions, contact HR/Employment, phone (859) 257-9555 press 2 or email [email protected]. Application deadline is April 18, 2010, but may be extended as needed. The University of Kentucky is a Tobacco & Drug Free campus. Any candidate offered this position may be required to pass pre-employment screenings as mandated by University of Kentucky Human Resources. These screenings may include a national background check and/or drug screen.
The University of Kentucky is an equal opportunity employer and encourages applications from minorities and women.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Banquet season is upon us. Many of our student organizations are having end-of-the-year dos. Some of them are fund-raisers as well as celebrations. Some of them combine honors and awards with other evening festivities.
If I overlook the immediate effect on my waistline and focus on the spirit of the events, I enjoy the season. For one thing, it gives me a chance to get out of the office and mingle with students in different surroundings. It also gives me a chance to show support for the hard work that so many student organizations put into speaker programs, service projects, and other efforts each year.
It is not possible to attend all of the events that are held each year. And some years, I need to "rotate" the chosen events to make ones that I couldn't attend the prior year. One thing that I have noted every year is that students are SO appreciative when faculty and deans make the effort.
So, if it is "banquet season" at your school, get dressed up, buy a ticket, and have another dinner to support students. You can eat more chicken dinners than you thought you could. Academic support becomes after-hours support when you show up with your smile, encouragement, and dinner chat.
Now excuse me, I am on my way out the door to an event. The gym will be there after the season is over. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, March 26, 2010
Professor Glater, a graduate of Yale Law School, spent nine years at The New York Times, most of it writing about the business of law for Business Day; previously he was a corporate lawyer at a Wall Street firm. As a reporter he helped cover bankruptcies ranging from Enron Corporation to General Motors, and the criminal trials of Martha Stewart, the late pop star Michael Jackson and the defunct accounting firm Arthur Andersen. He has written about the pressure on big law firms to abandon the billable hour, the ill-effects of borrowing for law school and a memorandum prepared by a hapless New York law firm paralegal on local sushi restaurants.
Professor Glater also spent two years writing about the finances of higher education and led the way in uncovering questionable marketing tactics used by student loan companies.
Professor Glater looks forward to working with students on their writing and other projects at the Law School. Over the course of the semester he will offer workshops dealing with study skills and exam preparation.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I talk several times a year to practicing lawyers or others who are considering academic support work as a career change. I have also through the years talked with new ASP'ers at both ends of the spectrum - those who love working in ASP and those who are looking for a change because ASP was not a good match.
I am listing below some aspects to consider when thinking about becoming an Academic Support Professional:
- Do you sincerely enjoy working with law students on their academics regardless of their academic standing? In ASP, you need to work with a wide range of students: students who have good GPA's but want to discuss one or two areas of concern; students who are hovering near the academic standard but not on probation; students who are on probation. You may well have contact with the "best and the brightest" at your school, but those students will not be your main focus. You need to assess your patience level while working with students who are struggling to learn basic study skills.
- Are you willing to do "catch all" counseling with your students on areas that are not strictly ASP? Academic problems often have medical, personal, family, or financial dimensions to them. Consequently, ASP'ers become privy to information that they normally would not know as they help students improve their academics. ASP'ers act as a referral point to help students sort out these other problems. Academic probation or dismissal is stressful for students used to being successful. ASP'ers may just need to listen and provide a tissue box. For some, these every day conversations and interactions would be "too much information" and not a desireable work environment.
- Are you willing to work more than a 40-hour week? Some people have the misconception that ASP must be easy 8 to 5 work. In fact it is a labor of love for most ASP'ers because of the heavy demands of the position. In ASP, your days are filled with individual appointments, workshops, meetings, and possibly ASP classes. Unless you have sufficient colleagues and administrative staff, the reality is that you complete many basic administrative tasks after 5:00 p.m. Workshop and class prep may also have to happen after 5 o'clock.
- Are you happy working on your own or do you prefer being part of a large staff? Although some law schools now have 2 or more full-time professionals doing ASP work, many schools still have one-person ASP offices. Depending on your school, you may find colleagues in other areas with similar interests in learning, teaching, and study skills.
- Do you have expectations about your status that will match the position? Although things are starting to change at some law schools, most ASP folks are administrators rather than full-time faculty. Consequently, not all things may be equal to faculty positions. Salary, vacation time, type of contract, service on committees, eligibility for research or teaching assistants, travel funds, professional development funds, and voting rights are just some of the areas to consider.
- Do you have a legal specialty area that you want to teach as well as any ASP duties? Some law schools combine an ASP class with a doctrinal course (example, Agency). Other law schools allow their ASP staff to teach substantive law courses as part of their full-time ASP load. Yet other schools allow ASP staff to teach such courses above and beyond their normal job duties. And at some law schools, there is no option for an ASP'er to teach doctrinal courses. Where teaching is an option, one has to consider the workload in ASP and how it can be balanced with teaching. Once again, after 5 o'clock and weekends may be the only class prep and grading time available.
- Do you have a passion for research and writing? Or involvement in professional associations? With the exception of the schools having tenure-track ASP staffing, ASP positions generally do not require research, publications, or professional association involvement. Most schools are delighted if their ASP'ers do these things, but it normally will be above and beyond the basic job description. Consequently, ASP'ers often have to do their research, writing, and professional service activities during evening and weekend hours.
- Do you want to make a real difference in the lives of law students? Teaching students the skills they need to be successful in law school (and ultimately in the profession) is very rewarding. It is a delight to have a former probation student come in to share the news of her first "A" or 3.0 GPA semester. Law students need someone to believe in them. ASP'ers are often those encouragers.
Being in ASP'er is a blessing for me. I enjoy working with law students. Combining my education and law backgrounds is a plus. However, each person has to decide if ASP work would be a good fit for a career.
Good luck if you are searching for an ASP position. We try to post positions here on the Blog whenever we know about them. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, March 22, 2010
Director of Academic Support and Bar Success
Campbell Law School
Campbell Law School invites applications for the position of Director of Academic Support and Bar Success. The anticipated start date for this position is July 1, 2010. This is a full-time administrative position that will provide for some teaching opportunities.
The Director's primary responsibility will be to work with law students to help them adjust to the academic demands of law school and to develop skills to reach their full academic potential for performance in law school, on the bar exam, and after graduation.
Specific responsibilities include:
a. design and implement an innovative and effective academic
b. counsel and advise students on academic probation, students "at
risk," and any other student, seeking to improve academic performance;
c. advise students on various academic issues, including academic
probation matters, and the petitioning process to obtain additional probationary semesters;
d. track the academic progress of "at risk" students and students
on academic probation;
e. assist in planning and execution of New Student Orientation;
f. teach workshops and/or classes for students who need academic
g. work with students in individual and small group sessions;
h. design and implement a bar success program;
i. additional teaching responsibilities as designated by the
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Candidates should have outstanding academic records, as well as experience and demonstrated excellence in teaching, leadership, administrative skills, and legal research and writing. Membership in the North Carolina State Bar, or the ability to attain membership by the spring of 2011, is preferred.
Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Campbell University is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Salary is commensurate with experience. Campbell University offers a full benefits package that can be reviewed at:
Applications should include: a cover letter, a current curriculum vitae, and contact information for three references. Confidential inquiries are welcome.
Applications may be sent to B. Keith Faulkner, Vice Dean, by email at [email protected] or by mail to B. Keith Faulkner, Vice Dean, Campbell Law School, 225 Hillsborough Street, Suite 401, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27603.
For information about Campbell Law School, please visit our website at www.law.campbell.edu.
B. Keith Faulkner, J.D./M.B.A.
Vice Dean for Administration and External Relations
Phone: (919) 865-4652
Vermont Law School (VLS), a private, independent law school located on the banks of the beautiful White River in South Royalton, VT, and the nation’s #1 environmental law program (US News & World Report), is looking for an outstanding, team-oriented individual who is motivated by the ability to make an immediate and sustained contribution in the workplace and the community. We are looking for a talented person to join us in the following position:
Director, Academic Success Program
The Director of Academic Success Program designs, develops, implements, and oversees the academic support program. The Director develops and executes classes and workshops, either directly or through subordinates, to improve the skills of the students necessary to be successful in their legal studies and pass the bar exam. This includes students in the JD, MELP and LLM programs at Vermont Law School.
Specific job responsibilities include:
- Design and implement strategies to assist all students, particularly high risk students and students in academic difficulty, to be successful in their legal studies.
- Responsible for all administrative duties associated with the bar exam, including but not limited to: coordination with the Director of Career Services to report bar passage statistics to the ABA, reporting programs and initiatives to the trustees, maintaining student records in regard to bar exam.
- Responsible for curriculum design and implementation of Advanced Legal Analysis course. Design, implement and, at times, deliver workshops, speaker series, and informational resources for all bar takers (i.e., TWEN, bulletin boards, flyers, emails) including summer support program for July bar takers.
- Coordinate services of commercial bar prep (i.e. Bar/Bri, KaplanPMBR) companies with student and VLS needs .
- Working in conjunction with the Asst. Dean of Academic Affairs, and the Asst. Director of ASP to ensure implementation of approved reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities.
- Hire, train and supervise academic success program staff including the Asst Dir, Program Coordinator, and Student Mentors.
- Manage the general operations of the department including the budget, short and long-term departmental goals, metrics, and strategies, and coordination of offerings within the department and with other departments and individual faculty members.
- Assist Assoc. Dean of Student Affairs & Diversity in the design and implementation of orientation activities for incoming students (i.e. the academic component of orientation programs).
- Provide individual counseling and tutoring for students with regard to study habits, skills, tools for improvement, time management, outlining, exam preparation, etc.
- JD degree and license to practice law in any US state
- Teaching experience in higher education environment
- Experience in the actual practice of law
- Knowledge of ADA, FERPA
- Training in learning theories
- Knowledge of legal analytical and writing skills
- Strong interpersonal communications skills
For more information on these and other positions, please visit our website at www.vermontlaw.edu.
Send a resume and cover letter with salary requirements to Human Resources, Vermont Law School, P.O. Box 96, South Royalton, VT 05068 or to [email protected].
Vermont Law School is an equal opportunity employer.
Friday, March 19, 2010
The stress levels are going up as students realize that there is less than half of the semester left once we return from Spring Break. Several study techniques can help minimize your anxiety in the coming weeks:
- Plan your study schedule carefully. Decide what hours you can free to focus on review each week. Designate review time by course so that you can determine whether you have prioritized time properly for each course. Not all courses are equal - think about your level of preparedness and understanding for each separate course.
- Study for understanding rather than mere memorization. If you truly understand a concept, you will retain the information better and recall the information more quickly. Also, understanding a concept will allow you to reason through a difficult question on an exam. Instead of guessing, you will be able to consider the question logically and thoroughly.
- Go to your professor early and often to get questions answered. The sooner you "plug up" holes in your understanding, the more quickly you will lower your anxiety. The same is true if you are a first-year student who has access to help from upper-division tutors or teaching assistants.
- Think about the information at all four levels of processing when you study: global, intuitive, sequential, and sensing. Two of these styles will be your preferences. The other two styles are your "shadows" - you can process at those levels, but it takes a bit more effort. You will understand the material with both breadth and depth if you consider all four levels.
- Global: What is the big picture of the material? What are the essentials that you need to understand? How do the topics in the course fit together to make the whole?
- Intuitive: What are the relationships among the topics, sub-topics, concepts, and cases? What policies or theories have been discussed in class? Do you know how to argue those policies or theories appropriately for the parties?
- Sequential: What are the individual units that you need to understand in the course? What steps of analysis or methodologies do you need to use for each topic or sub-topic? How can you think through the information methodically when you answer a question?
- Sensing: What facts, details, and practicalities do you need to know to flesh out the material? Are there nuances that you need to note in how the law is applied? Can you state the rules and definitions precisely? Do you need to know case names or code sections for your professor?
Apply the concepts and rules to as many practice questions as possible. Practice questions help you to understand the nuances in the law through different scenarios. The more variations you see on the facts ahead of time, the less likely that an exam question will seem "alien" to you. You will have thought about something similar previously during your practice sessions. By doing some practice questions "under test conditions" prior to the exam, you will be less anxious about formatting essay answers, choosing the "best" multiple-choice answer, or managing your time during the exam. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, March 18, 2010
One dimension of visual learning that helps many of my law students is an awareness of how color can be connected to learning. Some students can "see" material better when color is added: they organize the material more effectively, learn it more quickly, and retain it more easily.
Here are some general observations about using color to support learning:
- The amount of color may matter. One student may be able to use the broad tip of a highlighter to highlight case material. Another student may only be able to use a narrow underlining with a colored pen or pencil. For the latter student, highlighting would be too much of a good thing.
- The number of colors may matter. One student may have a "rainbow" case book : facts in orange; issues in yellow; procedural history in pink; reasoning in blue; holding and judgment in purple; dicta in green. Another student may only be able to use one or two colors; yellow for most items and orange if the professor stresses something in class.
- The consistency in color use may matter. The student with a "rainbow" casebook usually needs to keep the color categories the same for every case. Orange as facts consistently gives meaning to the color and allows the student to quickly find facts in the case. (And in her brief if the heading "FACTS" is highlighted in orange as well.) A student may always need to use red ink to indicate rules or blue ink to indicate policy while the remainder of class notes are in black ink (whether typing or handwriting). However, another student might randomly change ink colors in her handwritten notes just to keep from getting bored so that consistency is unimportant.
- The color chosen may naturally have meaning for a student. When I talk with students who are color learners, they often seem surprised when I ask them why they chose a particular color. They often respond that facts just are orange to them or rules just are red to them. If they color code binders for different courses, they will respond that Civil Procedure just seems pink and Torts just seems orange to them. Another color learner might use entirely different colors but will be equally sure that the specific color matches the concept or course.
- Color may indicate hierarchy, categories, parts, or difficulty. One student may tell me that green is for main topics, blue is for sub-topics, and yellow is for sub-sub-topics - color means hierarchy. Another student may tell me that green is for one topic, blue is for another topic, and yellow is for a third topic - color means categories of material. Yet another student will tell me that rules are green, policies are blue, and exceptions are yellow. A fourth student may say that green indicates material they are having trouble remembering, blue indicates material they need to study more, and yellow indicates material they need to talk with the professor about. Each student "sees" the use of color in a different way, though all of these ways are legitimate.
Here are some practical ways in which color can be added to assist in learning:
- Tabbing of a code/rule book or outline. A whole world of possibilities opens up with multiple colors of tabs. Tabs can indicate hierarchy (topics in red, sub-topics in blue, sub-sub-topics in yellow) or categories (pleadings and motions in red, depositions and discovery in blue, parties in yellow) or frequency of use (most often used in red, next most often used in blue, least often used in yellow), or difficulty to the student (known the best in red, known next best in blue, known the least in yellow).
- Adding color to a graphic organizer. By adding color to a black and white graphic organizer, many students can see the information more clearly and recall the organization better. Multiple colors can be used to indicate hierarchy, categories, or other levels of understanding.
- Using color to organize course materials. For example, a student might use orange binders, file folders, highlighters and index cards for Income Tax and everything in green for Wills & Trusts. Finding one's materials for Income Tax means gathering together anything orange to get organized. By thinking "orange" during an exam, some students would find that Income Tax information floated to the top of memory while other courses receded.
- Color coding items that one needs to draw attention to in studying. Sequential-sensing learners sometimes have difficulty remembering and using policy. By highlighting all policy in an outline in green, their attention is drawn to that area of difficulty for more drill. Global-intuitive learners sometimes have difficulty remembering precise rule statements or definitions. By highlighting all of these items in yellow in their outlines, they focus more on these specifics.
- Color coding practice question answers to analyze difficulties. An answer to a practice question should contain the law (rules, definitions of elements, etc.) as well as the facts as they apply to the law. In addition, most professors want to see both plaintiff and defendant arguments. And as appropriate, a student will need to refer to cases and policy. Finally, a student may need to concentrate on paring down her language to be more concise and less flowery.
- A student could highlight the law and cases in yellow, the facts in orange, and policy in green to see if they are properly organized and balanced within an answer.
- Plaintiff arguments could be bracketed in pink and defendant arguments in purple to show that both sides are represented in the analysis.
- Flowery language could be circled in red to show where paring was needed.
Color learners remark occasionally that they feel embarrassed because they should have outgrown coloring in grade school. Sometimes they are teased by classmates. They should ignore the jibes and continue to use color to advantage to improve their understanding, retention, and organization. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
It looks like New England will have another public law school in a few years. Franklin Pierce announced they will become affiliated with the University of New Hampshire, leading to a full merger over the next few years. This is wonderful news for students looking at affordable law schools in the Northeast. UNH Law will become the 3rd accredited public law school in New England, with a 4th closely following, when UMass Law opens and gets accreditation.
Congrats to Sunny Mulligan and Alice Briggs, FPLC's amazing ASP team, as the school transitions to UNH Law School.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
All of us who practiced before entering ASP work remember colleagues who were disasters at organization. If they were fortunate, they had a paralegal, secretary, or junior associate who "kept track" of them and their work. If not, they misplaced files, had near misses on filing deadlines, forgot to log billable time, and rushed everywhere because they were late.
Our law students will benefit from learning solid organizational skills while in law school. By learning how to organize their studies, their class materials, and their appointments/meetings, they will be better prepared for a legal work environment. On-the-job-training as summer law clerks or on their first jobs could prove disastrous to their careers.
Here are some tips for law students who need to improve their organizational skills:
- Have a study area in your apartment where you keep all of your casebooks, study aids, binders, highlighters, and pens. If everything is kept in one area, you can minimize having to search your apartment for items that you need before you can study.
- As a corollary, always return an item to its place in your study area after using it. Have a designated spot for books and binders for each course, office supplies, and your laptop.
- Have a binder/folder for each course that will include all papers for that course: handouts, articles assigned, practice questions distributed, and other "extras" from your professor. The same binder may include your syllabus/assignment sheet for the course. Alternatively, some students prefer a separate binder just for syllabi and assignment sheets for all courses.
- Consider using computer software to organize your own class notes, outlines, graphic organizers, and other course materials. Choose a product that has capabilities that match your study preferences, is easy to learn, and has flexibility within its categories. However, make sure that you have sufficient backup of these materials so that you do not lose everything if your computer crashes.
- If you respond to color, consider having hard copy materials for each course in a different color. If you know that PR has a green binder and folders while Evidence is blue for each, you can quickly pick out the necessary materials for the day.
- Determine the best "vehicle" for your materials for school. Get organized whether you prefer wheeled luggage, a backpack, separate computer and book bags, or some other method. Make sure that your method includes pockets and compartments for everything that you need.
- If your law school provides carrel space or locker space, determine how to use it effectively in conjunction with your "vehicle" of choice. Some students prefer to store everything at home and take things to school as needed. Other students prefer to store everything at school and take things home as needed. The main thing is making sure you have what you need at any time at each location.
- If the trunk of your car is your storage space, then get it organized. Consider collapsible crates or partitioned trunk dividers that can be used to sort items by course or by items (example, binders versus casebooks). Avoid leaving items exposed on the back seat that might tempt someone to break into your car.
- Have a designated spot in your apartment where you always place daily items that you need/use. Put your keys, wallet, cell phone, eyeglasses, and other essentials in the same place every time you walk in your apartment door. Stack bills to be paid in one place where they will not get mixed up with junk mail or other unimportant papers.
- Calendar all appointments and meetings. Whether you use Outlook, a hard copy appointment book, or your iPhone for calendaring, it will do you no good if you do not look at it! Regularly check your calendar and update it with new appointments as soon as possible.
- Use "alert" systems on your computer or phone to remind you of meetings and appointments. Alternatively at home, set your oven timer or alarm clock to alert you when to end a task or leave the house.
- Set an artificial deadline two days before a real deadline for a paper, exam, project, or other task. By working to the artificial deadline, you will have spare time if needed for a final edit, review of the one exam topic still confusing you, or finding another printer if your own printer jams.
- Whenever you have a "glitch" in your organization, determine what went wrong. Then correct the problem or choose a new strategy that will work better to keep you organized. Avoid excusing your error as "just one of those things." Take action to make sure it does not happen again.
Some folks are naturally organized. Other folks need to practice organization. All of us can become better organized if we continue to work at it. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, March 12, 2010
Another essential professional skill set that contributes to law school success are the social skills necessary to engage others. Just five years ago when I started in ASP, I would not have thought this was something that ASP could or should be involved in teaching. I thought it was something that students either had by the time they reached law school or could never acquire. In the past two years, my thinking has evolved along with the students. There are two developments that I believe changed the skill set of incoming students; use of the internet as the primary means of communication, and the increasing number of students with Asperger's or autism-spectrum disorders enrolling in law school.
I do not believe use of the internet and the concurrent loss of face-to-face social skills are generational; I see them in older students who have years of work experience as well as young students weaned on the internet. This is the product of the internet age; if you spend most of your time working on a machine with limited face-to-face human interaction, your social skills will suffer. However, I have started to weave lessons in professionalism and communication skills into my ASP courses. Students who do not have the ability to make small talk need that skill to develop relationships with their peers and need to know how to make professional or academic small talk to get to know their professors. Law school is the time to hone those skills; it is essential for a lawyer to know how to communicate. Including peer-to-peer activities in ASP classes and workshops forces students to get out from behind their screen and learn to work with others. Scheduling joint programs with Career Services that focus on etiquette and business skills can help teach these skills explicitly. Why does teaching social skills fall into ASP? Students who struggle in law school are sometimes the most isolated socially as well as academically, leading to emotional and mental health issues that compound their suffering. Students learn better from peers than from lectures. Study groups can be an incredibly effective means of testing understanding of the material.
It was two years ago when I first encountered students with autism-spectrum disorders in law school. Working with undergraduates as well as law students, I see that this is going to be more common as services for these students expand and they reach their academic potential earlier in life. Law schools, in their present state, are not ready to handle the challenges or provide the services necessary for these students. These students know they have a challenge, and seek out help. ASP is usually where they land. They struggle academically because they do not follow some of the informal banter between professor and student that shapes so much of class time; they struggle in the hyper-competitive environment that fosters a "say one thing, do another" style of communication; they struggle because disabilities are still seen as weakness by many of their peers and professors. Many of these students need explicit instruction in how to behave during office hours with their professors. They may need additional support after meeting with professors to decode conversations that include sarcasm and facial expressions that these students cannot read. They may need to be placed in a study group facilitated by someone in ASP because their peers find them a little strange and they are hesitant to disclose a disability as the source of their uniqueness. Many of these students do very, very well in the courses that use formal logic (future estates) or value procedural fairness instead of theoretical, abstract notions of justice. They have a great deal to contribute to the field, and to their classmates.
Lessons in social skills and communication, interwoven into the fabric of lessons on academic skills, or taught explicitly, are becoming necessary. (RCF)
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
There are a couple of skills that feel more akin to life management or corporate training that academic support. One of them is time management. It is essential to doing well in law school, and it is a skill most students come to law school believing they already have in their repetoire. After teaching this skill many times, I have a few helpful suggestions that make the lesson more effective.
1) Tell them it is a new skill set. They may have academic time management down to a science, but academic time management doesn't require you to measure your work in 6-minute increments. By reinforcing the idea that time management is a professional skill, not remedial training, students are more likely to buy-in to the lesson. Using old billable hour time sheets can help students visualize the change.
2) One of the best books I have found for lessons that support time management as a professional skill is Dennis Tonsings 1000 Days to the Bar (HEIN). There is an excellent chapter on scheduling, with wonderful charts, that help students map how they use their time.
3) There are fewer external checkpoints in law school to help students benchmark their studying. With academic time management, students have formative assessments (quizzes, midterms) that serve as a check throughout the semester. After each checkpoint, students could reassess their study system and make adjustments. Many times, a test or a midterm covers the material up to that point in the semester, and the final only covers material from the midterm to the final. Not the case at most law schools; the entire grade rests on one test. Therefore, students need to create checkpoints early in the semester to benchmark their work. The only way to hold oneself accountable is to plan early; scheduling is critical. Law school won't provide external checkpoints, so students need to learn how to schedule them into studying.
4) Students should try using multiple calendars. A semester calendar can help students map their overall study schedule. A monthly or weekly calendar can help students see smaller, essential engagements. A daily calendar or a to-do list can help students stay on track throughout the day. For many people, checking things off of a to-do list or crossing them off a calendar provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Law school doesn't provide many things students can feel good about, but this is one small way students can reward themselves.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Some law students have been studying for exams all semester by staying on top of their course reading, adding to their outlines each week, and conscientiously learning new material while reviewing past material. In truth, this ongoing process is the key to the highest grades because deeper understanding and long-term memory result.
However, most students are only now beginning to think about exam study. Depending on the school, they are 6 - 8 weeks out from exams. For many, they will be on the "downward slope" when they return from Spring Break.
There are four kinds of review that students need to accomplish as they study for exams. If all four kinds are included in their study plans, they are more likely to master their courses and garner better grades.
First, one needs to learn intensely each topic. This type of study has deep understanding as its goal. It is the "could walk into the exam on Friday" kind of learning. It may take several study sessions to reach this level of learning for a long topic that was covered over multiple class sessions. Intense learning may need to include additional reading in study aids or time asking the professor questions in order to clear up all confusion and master the material. In addition to learning this one part of the course, the student should consider how it relates to the course as a whole.
Second, one needs to keep fresh everything in the course. This type of study is focused on reading one's outline cover to cover at least once a week. It makes sure that the law student never gets so far away from a topic that it gets "foggy." Students forget 80% of what they learn within two weeks if they do not review regularly. After intensely learning a topic, it would be a shame to forget it. Constant review reinforces long-term memory and provides for quicker recall when the material is needed.
Third, one needs to spend time on basic memory drills. This type of study helps a student remember the precise rule, the definition of an element, or the steps of analysis. For most students, these drills will be done with homemade flashcards. Some students will write out rules multiple times. Other students will develop mnemonics. Still others may have visual reminders. The "grunt work" of memory can be tedious. However, if one does not know the law well, one will not do well on the exam.
Fourth, one needs to complete as many practice questions as possible. This step has several advantages. It monitors whether one has really understood the law. It tests whether one can apply the law to new fact scenarios. It allows one to practice test-taking strategies. And it monitors whether one needs to repeat intense learning on a topic or sub-topic because errors on the questions indicate that it was obviously not learned to the level needed.
Ideally students need to set aside blocks of study time to accomplish each of these reviews every week for every course. The proportion of time for each course will depend on the amount of material covered, the difficulty of the course for the student, and the type of exam. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, March 5, 2010
I often pick up study tips from my students. They mention software that helps them or a technique that has worked. Periodically, I gather their ideas and share them here on the Blog.
Using One Note: More and more students are mentioning to me that they like the One Note software for organizing their work. They find the folders easy to use. They like the "tag" feature that allows them to tag rules, policy, code sections or other items and print a special list of those particular items. The only negative that I have heard repeatedly is that the features for making graphics are not very helpful.
Graphic organizers: There are lots of web sites that give examples of graphic organizers that students can use for converting law concepts into visuals. One website that has templates that students can print off is Education Place.
True/false questions: Students often confuse themselves on true/false questions by ignoring the "little bit false" part of a statement - almost like arguing you can be just "a little bit pregnant." One student suggests that you ask yourself "Is it TOTALLY true that..." as you read the statement. If there is anything that is false, then the statement is false.
IPhone and IPodTouch applications: A number of students have mentioned to me that the aps for bar study are useful - some free and some costly. One student especially liked the free ap from BarMax for MPRE studying.
Cutting up practice essay question answers: A student mentioned that she was having trouble 1) organizing her practice question analysis and 2) avoiding flowery language. She discovered that after she typed an initial answer she needed to print out a copy and cut it up into the separate sentences. She then could reorganize the sentences into a more logical format. And flowery sentences could get removed entirely or rewritten on the sentence slips. She would then type the new answer and compare it to the original. The exercise helped her to improve on both of her problem areas.
Yahoo Messenger to conference: One of our 1L sections regularly uses this capability to discuss questions that the students have in all three of their doctrinal classes. Most of the section participates in the discussions about the material.
Our students have creative ideas for studying that use their different learning styles and computer literacy to advantage. I always enjoy learning something new from my students! (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Several law students were chatting with me this week and noted that most law students are divided into three categories: those who are satisfied to get just C's; those who are striving to do better than last semester's grades; and those who have done well in the past and believe that they will continue to do so.
With the recent Winter Olympics, I automatically started thinking about these categories in relation to the three levels of medals at the ceremonies. However, I would add a fourth category for those students who are "in training" for the qualifying rounds before the medal categories.
Training for the qualifying rounds: These students are those whose fall performance was far under the minimal academic standard but who were allowed to continue on probation (example, at schools where no one is dismissed after the first semester and given the full year to meet the standards). Many of these students will be able to turn around their academics with assistance from academic support. However, some will be enormously challenged by their very weak fall grades and mathematically will still be below standard.
For some of them, they came to law school with minimal study habits because A's and B's came easily in undergraduate school with little studying. They are learning how to study now for the first time.
For some of them, they just did not apply themselves during fall semester until too late and found that they could not learn it all in time for the exams. They are taking it all more seriously this time around.
For a few, they just took longer learning how to "think and write like lawyers." Now that it has clicked for them, it will get easier.
Settling for bronze: These students are content to stay with their current achievement of C's. They have consciously decided that they will not seek A's and B's. They see themselves as excelling beyond their classmates on probation, staying "safe" above the academic standards, and accepting their status as the "third quartile" of the class. Why do these students settle for bronze?
For some students, it is discouragement after fall semester (for 1L's) or consecutive semesters (for upper-division students). They have decided that they will never be more than C students in law school. Their performance did not live up to all their hard work last semester so improvement is seen as unattainable. They often talk about the "curve" being against them. Most of these students could in fact get B's and probably A's if they became more efficient and effective in their studying and incorporated new study techniques.
For some students, it is a lifestyle decision. Family commitments, part-time work, devotion to a particular student organization, or devotion to an outside passion may support the decision. Even these students may improve their grades without sacrificing life balance if they became more efficient and effective and adopted new strategies.
For a few, it may be a lack of willingness to work any harder than they did in their undergraduate experience. They simply do not want to study the number of hours necessary to increase their grade point average in law school. These students may respond to discussions of strategies with "I don't really want to work that hard; what is the shortcut that I can take."
Striving for silver: These students are motivated to move forward in their academics. They believe that they can make positive improvements in time management, study skills, and exam writing to do better than the past semester. They want to "go into training" to hone their skills. They are focused on a new goal. They evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, ask for coaching, and get to work. Why do these students strive for silver?
For some students, it is a matter of pride. They know they have greater academic potential than they have shown. They want to master law school studying and improve so that they succeed in their own eyes. The competition is often internal rather than focused on how others have done.
For some of these students, it relates to a goal of being the best lawyer that they can be. They know that striving for improvement will have payoff for the bar exam and in practice. They believe in themselves and in their ultimate role in society.
Some of the students in this group will actually be those currently on probation whose grade points are damaged but not irretrievable. They will not only get off probation; they will achieve a major jump in grade point that will put distance between them and the minimal academic standard. Some of them will then set their sights on going for gold in future semesters.
Going for gold: These students did well in the fall semester and have the afterglow of academic success. Many will continue their hard work because they want to replicate the achievement. They will use their confidence to push themselves to hone their skills and again come out on top. These students are the gold medalists who achieve their best semester after semester.
However, a few in this group of initial "gold medalists" will be overtaken by other classmates because they will become too smug at their standing and assume that they cannot be bumped from the top spots. As in the Olympics, the "best" are not automatically secure and should avoid resting on their laurels. Hard work and focus are still needed if one is to improve and stay at the very top.
The important thing to remember about law students is that whether they are training for the qualifying rounds or among the bronze, silver, or gold medalists, they were still the cream of the crop of our applicants. They are highly intelligent and have a history of success prior to law school. Some may not continue in law school next semester by their own choice or for academic standard reasons. Those who leave will still have successful and productive lives, just not in law.
For those who continue and graduate, many will pass the bar on the first attempt. Most will have competent and respectable careers. And, they may replicate their status while in law school or they may excel far beyond it. Academics do not always predict success in the "real world" of practice. New criteria in the work world may reconfigure where they are in the ranks of attorneys. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Friday was the annual NY regional ASP workshop; the workshop from which all other regionals have been born. Thanks again to Kris Franklin and Linda Feldman for doing an awesome job, even if Kris tells everyone that participants do all the work. All attendees deserve a pat on the back for braving a snowstorm that shut down the NYC public schools.
The morning session opened with a group exercise facilitated by Professor Micah J. Yarbrough, Widener School of Law (Delaware campus) and Everett Chambers of Texas Wesleyan. Through this group exercise a colleague (Linda Feldman of Brooklyn Law and Susan Zusman of William Mitchell) was selected to present a “problem or classroom challenge” to the workshop. Attendees then through a series of guided conversations, assisted the colleague in assessing the challenge, resulting teaching decisions made and any embedded motivations within. The result was that the presenter as well as participants benefited from thoughtful collective reflection on issues common to many involved in academic and bar program support including student/teacher and faculty/administration relationships, the motivations underlying student intervention, and professional development within the Academy. “Rounds” was introduced at last year’s workshop by Mary Lu Bilek and David Nadvorney of CUNY Law with so much success, it was repeated again this time around.
Our afternoons were a roundtable discussion on a topic of the presenters choice. Angela Baker of Rutgers-Camden presentedon the process of getting faculty approval for bar courses for credit. David Epstein of NYLS presented some fascinating statistics on the differing study habits and perceptions of study habits between day and evening law students. Susan Feathers of Albany Law presented on teaching courses outlining to students. Everett Chambers presented a question for thegroup on how to structure student-led spring semester study groups to reduce 1L attrition in ASP programming. I presented on my experiences teaching a hybrid doctrinal-ASP course to 2L's. And finally, Kris Franklin had us play a game that can be used with students to teach reasoning skills. Kris's game was a spectacular success on many levels, and taught me I am a bad loser (my apologies to Everett!)
As other regionals come up, please send me or Amy a synopsis of events and we will be happy to post on the blog. Remember, everyone in ASP has something to share that is valuable to the community, no matter how new you are to the field. (RCF)
(Thanks to Micah Yarbrough for composing the blurb on the morning events)
Monday, March 1, 2010
In my role of Director of the Pre-law Center at UConn, I am noticing an interesting phenomena. I am in the process of arranging a law student panel for pre-law students here at the Storrs campus. I have been contacting the UConn alums who left their contact information with the school to see if they would be interested in participating. I am inviting roughly twice as many students as I need to fill the panel, with the understanding that a law student's life is busy and many won't be able to make it simply because it will take time away from studying. However, the students I have contacted thus far have been wonderful, enthusiastic, and want to help. In a time when we hear so much about law student depression, negativity, and apathy, it has been a joy to talk to these law students. I should note that these students are randomly chosen. There is no selection bias; I am contacting students who left contact information with the school before they started law school for reasons that had nothing to do with the Pre-Law Center. I don't know their grades. I don't know their job prospects. They did not leave the information for the purpose of being a part of a "Yeah! Law School!" panel. They don't have to respond to me, so they probably aren't giving me answers to rationalize their choice.
I have been pondering why it is that so many people respond happily--even when they can't make it--to a request to talk about the law school experience when the predominant feeling one gets from the news is that law students are miserable. The students I have talked to are happy with the choice they made, and would make it again, even in this job market.
This has led me to think about the conversations I have with students in my role as an ASPer. We see the students who are struggling and/or suffering. Many tell us they would not make the same choice again. We don't get the chance to talk to students who say they would make the same choice. One of my goals for the student panel is to ask them why; why do they find law school enriching? I think that their answers might be helpful for students who are struggling. I do not want to diminish or belittle student suffering, but I think there are parts of the law school experience that are easy to forget when one is struggling. I think there is something rewarding about law school that we might be missing, something that students still feel but don't readily express. Among the general (non-lawyer) public, there are a lot of trite responses about why law school is a positive life choice, and most of them involve money, career potential, or degree flexibility. Current law students know those responses are no longer accurate. But law school is a positive thing; I think we all could benefit from listening to students tell us why, in their own words. (RCF)